ES.S41 | Spring 2012 | Undergraduate

Speak Italian With Your Mouth Full

Lesson 9

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Watch two videos:

Lesson 9, Part 2: Ingredients and Cooking Instruction

Lesson 9, Part 3: Cooking Instruction, continued

Il Tiramisù/Tiramisu

Tiramisù means pick me up (tira = 2nd person singular of the verb tirare, to pull or to throw — mi = me — su, without accent = up). It is such a popular dessert that it needs no introduction =)

The opposite of su is giù.


  • Six uova/eggs a temperatura ambiente (Literally “at environment temperature”, at room temperature)
  • 750 g mascarpone (about 26.5 ounces, at Shaw’s you can find the brand Belgioioso)
  • 8–10 cucchiai di zucchero/spoonfuls of sugar
  • A drop of marsala or rum or another liquor (if you are 21 or over)
  • 2–3 packages of ladyfingers (savoiardi, you can find them in the Italian sector at any grocery store)
  • A tablet of dark chocolate (cioccolato fondente, altough fondente does not mean dark, but melting) or cocoa powder/cacao in polvere
  • caffè (coffee) as much as needed (1 or 2 cups are usually sufficient)


  1. In a ciotola/bowl, mescola/mix the egg yolks (i tuorli or rossi d’uovo = literally “the reds of the egg”) with the mascarpone [and the marsala].
  2. In another ciotola, whisk the whites/monta gli albumi or i bianchi with the sugar (you can whisk by hand with a fork or a hand whisk, or by using an electric beater).
    Then mix the two creams gently: you want to avoid the egg whites foam to collapse.
  3. In the meantime, prepare your favorite coffee (I use espresso, I will write more about caffè in the next days), let it cool down and put it in a shallow dish.
  4. Dip the ladyfingers in the coffee and make a layer on a rectangular pyrex/ceramic pan. Then add a layer of cream, then another layer of soaked ladyfingers.
  5. Make in total 2-3 layers of ladyfingers, end with a thin layer of cream and sprinkle with shaved dark chocolate (you can shave the chocolate with a cheese grater) or cocoa powder.
  6. Put in the fridge, if you have enough patience wait (aspetta, from aspettare) a few hours and enjoy. If you wait one day it tastes even better. Serve chilled!

Variations: if you prepare tiramisù for kids, you can substitute the caffè with a mix of milk and decaf.

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Lezione Numero Nove/Lesson Number Nine

Watch a video clip:

Lesson 9, Part 1: Opening Lecture

 Un Caffè Per Favore

Watch a YouTube video featuring a famous Italian song about coffee:

Il Caffè Della Peppina.” 13° Zecchino d’oro. October 8, 2009. YouTube. Accessed May 13, 2013.

Special Guest

Un ospite speciale/A special guest: Fiorenzo Omenetto, Professore di Ingegneria Biomedica a Tufts.

See Professor Omenetto’s TED Talk on Silk: The Ancient Material of the Future.

Let’s refresh some vocabolario!

  • il bar in Italia is not a place where they serve just alcoholic drinks, but it refers also to a coffee house. People drink coffee at the bar all the time, mostly standing at the counter (Italian coffee is so small that you do not need to sit or carry it with you to drink it).
  • caffè really refers to espresso, and it is served in a tazzina (una tazza piccola = a small cup).
  • there is no small, medium, large: you either simply ask for un caffè (regular size), or caffè doppio/caffè lungo (double/long: it has a little more water) or caffè ristretto (literally “shrinked”, more concentrated, with less water).
  • caffè macchiato caldo, “stained” with a tiny bit of warm frothed milk. macchia = spot, stain macchiare = to stain, caldo = hot.
  • caffè macchiato freddo, served with a tiny bit of cold/freddo milk on the side, in a small jug.
  • cappuccino, served in a cup, it needs no explanation, but if you order cappuccino in the city of Trieste you may be disappointed, as they would serve you a miniature cappuccino, similar to a macchiato caldo. Trieste has its own coffee vocabulary that you may want to check before a trip.
  • marocchino (Literally “from Morocco”): espresso, frothed milk, cocoa powder, served in una tazzina.
  • caffè corretto espresso “corrected” with a shot of liquor, typically grappa or Sambuca.
  • caffè d’orzo, espresso made from barley, it is decaf and the taste is different, worth trying. It can be ordered in all the variations, just like a normal caffè.
  • caffè decaffeinato or caffè HAG (from the name of a common brand).
  • d’estate (di estate, during the summer) you can find caffè freddo.
  • caffelatte (or caffè latte) is the American latte. We make it mostly at home for colazione, it is very rare to hear anyone ordering un caffelatte al bar.
  • a casa, everyone makes caffè by using the italian coffee maker, called caffettiera (also called moka, or Bialetti, from the name of the original brand).
A silver metallic pitcher sits on top of the burner of a stove.

A photograph of the Italian coffee maker called Bialetti, moka or caffettiera. This is the way most Italians make coffee at home. (Image courtesy of ispivey on flickr.)

More songs about caffè:


  • Prepare un tiramisù.
  • Complete the exercises below.


Complete the exercises for Lesson 9 (PDF).

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Spring 2012
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